03 November 2012

Property and Philosophy

Three perspectives on power and theory ....

'Why Philosophers, Social Scientists, and Lawyers Think Differently about Property Rights' by Amnon Lehavi (2012) comments that
Property is a powerful concept. It features prominently in academic and public discourse. But it is also a source of ongoing confusion. While some of this disarray may be attributed to the success of “disintegrative” normative agendas, much of it is the result of a methodological and conceptual disconnect both within and among different fields of study. Aimed at narrowing this gap, this Article analyzes the transformation of property from a moral and social concept into a legal construct. It seeks not to develop a historical or intellectual account of such an evolution, but to analyze the institutional and structural features of property once it is incorporated into the legal realm.
The Article identifies the unique jurisprudential ingredients of a system of rules by which society allocates, governs, and enforces rights and duties among persons in relation to resources. It examines the work of decision-making institutions entrusted with the task of designing property norms over time. Clarifying the institutional and structural attributes of property does not require, however, adhering to a uniform body of substantive norms or to a single set of underlying values. Illuminating the construction of property allows rather for a better informed debate about the socially-desirable content of property rights.
Among excursions into theoretical cul de sacs see 'Post Race Posthaste: Towards an Analytical Convergence of Critical Race Theory and Marxism' by Donna Young in 1 Columbia Journal of Race and Law (2012) 499-510, which comments  -
Viewing United States antidiscrimination law through a Marxist lens helps to reveal weaknesses in the American approach to combating racism. Although Marxist theory is salient to the perpetual problem of American racism, it has been essentially ignored in the American approach. Consequently, Title VII jurisprudence has floundered in its lack of attention to some basic Marxist principles that would require an examination of capital from the perspective of those whose bodies and labor are owned and consumed through the process of capital accumulation.
As Marxism reminds us, looking at discrimination from the perspective of the worker reveals that the myriad forms of discrimination experienced in and beyond the workplace are part of a system of subordination that is: (i) supported by faith in free markets, and (ii) not amenable to the narrowly-drawn parameters of the American anti-discrimination framework. The framework, however, does fit nicely into a view of discrimination from the perspective of those put in the position of defending their conduct (the employer, the capitalist, etc.) because it treats discrimination as an uncommon, solitary, or purposeful act done by someone to someone else, not as a regular, systemic and necessary element of a capitalist system.
African Americans and other people of color seek redress for their racial injuries. However, if we are living in a post-racial society, one that is blind to race, then widespread redress makes no sense since widespread discrimination allegedly is a thing of the past. Therefore, it is worth asking, “if racial justice is about remembering racial injury, ha[s] our law made that memory impossible, erased by official color-blindness?” This question has been central to the study of law among Critical Race theorists since Critical Race Theory’s (CRT) inception. Therefore, an analytical convergence of CRT and Marxism should help disentangle the morass that is antidiscrimination law. The connection between Marxism and CRT can be appreciated by examining the limitations of civil rights laws in alleviating some of the most pressing social and political stresses on communities of color today. And yet, the connection seems to get lost beneath the din of those who claim that we are experiencing our first post-racial moment in a larger post-Marxist epoch. The aim of this Essay is to examine how a convergence of Marxism and CRT might enhance a critique of the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of race discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The answer? Young concludes -
How might Marxist theory contribute to the understanding that antidiscrimination laws are ineffectual in the context of free markets and post-racial dialogue? Marxism tells us that the conflict between the capitalist class and the working class is inherent in a capitalist system. Capitalists control the means of production and endeavor to increase profit by exploiting the working class. The working class sells its labor in return for wages. This working class majority, then, is interested in increasing wages and improving working conditions. Because capitalists have superior bargaining power, especially within the legal framework of at-will employment, they also enjoy more economic, legal, political and social power. Therefore, in order to end exploitation (the devaluation of their labor), the working class must work together to overthrow capitalists. Absent this revolution, however, the working class at least must form unions and other organizations to improve the quality of work (better wages, hours, and working conditions).
Racism has been and continues to be a constant and necessary component of American capitalism. It operates to divide the working class and indeed relegates large minorities to the underclass and thus prevents unified political action. The resulting weakness of bargaining power of the working classes maximizes profits by ensuring a wage system that undervalues the worth of labor. Ownership of capital is therefore equated with Whiteness and being owned or devalued with Blackness. Discrimination is a system not confined to the individual workplace, but one that permeates all workplaces and one that is essential to the structure of the free market itself. Yet because antidiscrimination laws have been incapable of addressing inequities inherent in a presumed race-neutral free market, we cannot rely on existing antidiscrimination laws to address the many ways in which racism is practiced. Due to the embedded nature of racism in American capitalism, concerted, organized resistance may be a promising avenue for meaningful social change.
I'm unpersuaded.

People who are underwhelmed by the dictatorship of the precariat but enthused by the likes of the quantum mysticism questioned here might turn to 'On Holism and The Contextual Character of Natural Qualities' by Vuk Uskokovic in 68(6) World Futures (2012) 406-429
Presented is a discourse on the contextual nature of physical qualities. The realistic and observational contexts in which a system exists are demonstrated as equally involved in defining its qualities. Each quality could be consequently considered as natural and experiential at the same time. The subsequently proposed thesis of the contextual co-definition of natural/experiential qualities in the relationship between the human mind and Nature is shown to possess numerous favorable ethical and aesthetical implications. The contextual nature of experiential qualities is further correlated with the holistic character of natural systems and events, which is illustrated by several real-life examples. A systemic approach to knowledge is shown to naturally emanate from the acceptance of the contextual definition of physical qualities and the holistic nature of experiences. Methodological problems of the standard, reductionist explanatory frameworks are additionally discussed with an emphasis on the major descriptive flaws of quantificational approaches and in respect to cybernetic and autopoietic organization of physical and biological systems. ....
Despite the fact that the beginnings of the Western tradition of wisdom are marked with the image of Socrates who allegedly (Plato 1984a). used to suddenly stop during his leisured walks and stand still for hours, deeply engaged in meditative thoughts, it seems as if humans nowadays neglect to look over their shoulders and occasionally revisit and revise the guidelines that steer the patterns of their abstractions and actions. Moreover, raising one's glances upward and looking for heavenly signs to fall upon one seems to have ceded place with an acceptance of worldviews that dictate that all that exists are no “Heavens” above, but particles yielding purely accidental phenomena while moving in random, Brownian way. This work challenges the latter worldview by exploring the steps that may reestablish faith in “the signs that fall from the Heavens above,” although through the perspective of scientific and philosophical reasoning. In the end, we might realize that the immanent divinity of the natural co-creation could be discerned by both observing the experiential foundations of one's being and raising views toward Heavens. So far, Socrates’ bright statuary posture that reflects his deep engagement in contemplation while carefully observing the patterns of the sky, or the vision of eternal Platonic beauty with Her eyes oriented toward the inner core of spiritual values and yet seeking signs of immanent divinity obscured in every detail and aspect of the world, may serve as a picturesque guidance on our way.
The concept of perceptual, reflective, and social co-creation of experiential phenomena has been in more details discussed in the author's previous works (Uskoković 2009a, 2009b, 2009c, 2011). To put it briefly, whereas objectivistic standpoints see individual experiences as resulting from passively detected physical outlines of an external world and their projections in terms of directly corresponding images on the cognitive screen of one's mind, constructivist stances claim that the world of one's experience is the product of autonomous construction of experiential wholes out of vaguely related pieces of the puzzle of raw environmental impulses. The concept of co-creation of experiential qualities adopts a middle ground with respect to these two ideas. The objectivistic proposition of perceptive observation and reflective discovery of ideas, and the constructivist proposition of perceptive construction and reflective invention of ideas are thus merged into the concept of perceptive and reflective co-creation of experiential qualities. Accordingly, all the products of one's perception and reflection can be seen as arising in the course of co-creational communication between mind and Nature, which implies creative involvement of both the subject and environmental stimuli in defining features of the subject's experiential reality. To what extent do these basic forms of human perception come from cognitive predispositions and the biological makeup of human organisms and to what degree are they influenced by natural processes around us is an unanswerable question since we are unable to untangle these two sides; as the co-creational thesis tells us, all the products of our perception and, consequently, reflections, reasoning and hands-on creations arise from the dialogue between mind and Nature. With the concept of co-creation defined, we can proceed to analyze the contextual and holistic character of natural phenomena. ... Interpretational contexts within which a being encompasses experiential features are continually co-created through interaction between the subject's sphere of questioning relationships directed towards an observed system and a realistic sphere of ontological relationships that connect the observed system with the rest of the world. Each co-created experiential detail could be, therefore, considered as a way that relates the observer with infinity of natural relationships, providing indirect encounters with the entire physical reality. In the opposite direction, all subtle thoughts and intentions may be similarly relatable to the entire existence and depicted thereupon as “messenger doves” that incessantly emit “waves,” inspiring and harmonious or disruptive and turbulent, that reach even the most desolate corners of the world.
And on and on it goes.

Uskokovic concludes
Approaching the final destinations and turning back to where the walk of this discourse has started from, we come to realization that there is indeed a necessity for occasional redirection of our cognitive views toward contextual skies of both realistic and idealistic ambiances in the course of their co-creational meetings from which all experiential qualities emanate. This may eventually transform one's cognitive stances into a spiral progression through constant balletic twirls wherein prudent and ponderous swirling backward so as to reach the epistemological foundations of one's reasoning and looking up towards contexts that endow experiential features with the shades of meaning and a sense of timeless beauty ceaselessly alternate with each other. Continuous interplay between the ontological, “heavenly sky” of Nature and the epistemological “sky of the soul” has been shown to co-create the features of all experiential/natural systems. While facing the realistic aspects of experiential horizons has the chance to overwhelm one with astonishing wonder, facing its subjective aspects corresponds to explorations of epistemological foundations of one's experience and their eventual enrichment with sacred treasures of life in terms of precious values, emotions, and aspirations. Wonder and Love can be, therefore, after all, glimpsed as a couple of mutually potentiating aspects of sublime acting in the world. And in the long and sacred quest for eternal beautification of the world, one may realize that this pair of aspects presents two poles of a single whole, wherein their endless interplay makes experiential worlds as the emanations of the divine to arise and evolve.